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COMMONWEALTH v. BALLEM (06/25/56)

June 25, 1956

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BALLEM, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 160, Jan. T., 1956, from judgment of Court of Oyer and Terminer, General Jail Delivery and Quarter Sessions of the Peace for Delaware County, June T., 1954, Nos. 482 and 483, in Case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Francis X. Ballem. Judgment affirmed. Indictment charging defendant with murder. Before TOAL, J. Verdict of guilty, with penalty fixed at death; petition of defendant to be psychiatrically examined refused and judgment of sentence entered on verdict. Defendant appealed.

COUNSEL

William H. Turner, with him Robert W. Mills, for appellant.

Paul R. Sand, Assistant District Attorney, with him Raymond R. Start, District Attorney and Ernest L. Green, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 386 Pa. Page 22]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

Defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. The evidence was sufficient to prove that on or about April 23, 1954, defendant lured John Dopirak to his home for the purpose of robbing him, and that when Dopirak discovered he was trying to steal his money and accused him of it, he, Ballem, shot and killed Dopirak.

On April 27, 1954, a few days after the murder, the police at Sharon Hill found a trunk in a trolley station within the Borough. It contained two packages wrapped in plastic raincoats, each of which contained parts of a human body. Two days later defendant was arrested hiding in the attic of his home in Upper Darby Township.

Ballem contends that his second confession was coerced and therefore inadmissible. Ballem made two confessions. The first confession was a lengthy one consisting of questions and answers. For reasons which will hereinafter appear, defendant does not object to the admission of this confession. Ballem stated therein that he killed in self defense in his home a man whose name he did not know; that the killing occurred on the Thursday or Friday of the week preceding April 30, 1954; that he met the deceased either at the Essex Bar or Deway's in Philadelphia; that they drank together; that he took the man to his (Ballem's) home where they drank some more; that the deceased went upstairs to the toilet and when he came down he had Ballem's ring on his finger; that he then told deceased to drop everything and get out. Deceased shot at him and Ballem

[ 386 Pa. Page 23]

    then shot deceased in the abdomen, and the deceased fell on the floor and some time thereafter died. Ballem dragged the body to his basement and removed and burned the clothing in the furnace. He then got drunk and decided to dispose of the body. He purchased lye and placed it on the hands and over the face, but it did not destroy the features. He then applied a torch. After several hours he decided the torch was not working successfully and he went upstairs and got drunk all over again. After he sobered up, he cut up the body with a saw. He tried unsuccessfully to burn the cut up portions of the body, piece by piece, in the furnace. He burned successfully some parts of the body; then he took sheets and newspapers, put the ashes therein and flushed them down the drain or sewer with a hose. The drain was located in his basement. He then bought plastic raincoats and wrapped therein other portions of the body, some of which he placed in a trunk which he bought and brought home in a taxicab. Other parts he placed in a suitcase which he hid on the third floor of his home. He took other parts of the body, with the raincoats wrapped around them, and rolled them into a creek known as Naylor's Run, Upper Darby, which is four or five blocks from his home. He cleaned and re-loaded his gun so that if it was found no one would know it had been recently fired. He confessed that the gun which was found in his home was the one with which he shot and killed the deceased; he confessed that the torch and the saw which were found in his basement were the torch and saw with which he burned and subsequently dismembered the body of the deceased; and he stated that the gloves found in his home were the gloves which he used so that no finger marks would be found.

Defendant's answers were highly intelligent and gave in great detail his account of the killing and in

[ 386 Pa. Page 24]

    particular the details concerning the burnings, dismemberments and hidings of deceased's body; the stores where he bought the trunk, the raincoats, etc. which he used to conceal the crime. There could not be the slightest doubt in the world from the detailed explanation and answers given that Ballem was a very intelligent person, and that he had shot and killed and dismembered a man. There is, we repeat, no claim by Ballem that this confession was not free and voluntary, or that it was in any way or in any degree coerced. It was witnessed by six persons who were present when the confession was made. ...


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